Leaving 'Leatherheads' For The Last Time
The leather helmets worn by the football players in "Leatherheads"
When I stood in line for about three hours trying out to be a football-playing extra in "Leatherheads" in December 2006, I thought to myself, "This is crazy! There's no way that I'll ever have the chance to be in a major Hollywood movie starring George Clooney, Renee Zellweger, and John Krasinski!"
Boy, was I wrong!
Although it wasn't as a football player, I did indeed have that chance to be on the movie set in early March portraying the doorman at the Emerson hotel filmed in downtown Greenville, South Carolina where Clooney's character delivers a line to me and I give him an incredulous look back. Way cool!
A few weeks later, they asked me to come back to play the role of a fan during the football game scenes filmed in Travelers Rest, South Carolina for the "Leatherheads" movie, a romantic comedy set in the 1920's around the time professional football was born. Although the pay rate for being an extra is only $7 an hour, just to be on that set with Clooney, Krasinski, etal. was indeed an experience I won't soon forget.
Everyone was dressed up in 1920's attire from head to toe
Wearing a big wool coat, scarf, hat, dress pants, shirt and tie, and dress shoes is definitely not the attire of the 21st century, but that's exactly what the men wore day in and day out back then. So we had to dress the part whether it was 85 degrees outside or 45 degrees. It was like we stepped back in time seeing each other dressed like this and the women were all dolled up with their cute hats and bright makeup. I swear, all the women looked exactly alike! Gorgeous, of course. ;)
Is that George Clooney posing with Jimmy Moore?
As you can imagine, there have been literally hundreds of people working as extras for the "Leatherheads" movie and I was privileged enough to meet quite a few of them. One of the most popular extras has got to be Greg Helker, aka G.C. As in "George Clooney"--yep, that's him in that picture with me above. What a great guy, too! The man was so gracious and humble to everyone who spoke with him and wanted to have their picture taken with "Clooney" (actually, he looks a little more like late-night talk show host Jay Leno than Clooney in person).
In fact, I remember Greg wearing a white T-shirt with the message "I'm Not Clooney" at the football tryouts in December. What's really funny is he was just as star-struck as the rest of us on the set watching all the movie stars. Yep, even the Clooney look-a-like was glad to be a part of this movie. It was great to meet you, Greg, and I hope to see you in the film (is that YOU or Clooney, hmmm? LOL!).
What's a football movie without cheerleaders, right?
There were all kinds of extras used in the movie, including football players, referees, fans, members of the press, vendors, and cheerleaders. Many of the extras were dressed completely by wardrobe and others of us brought some of our own clothes which were supplemented with items from the movie set. There were special privileges given to the people who were in 100% vintage costume for close-up shots and they took great pains to keep this period film as authentic as possible.
George Clooney watching the monitor as John Krasinski stands by
On Thursday, filming of "Leatherheads" resumed in Charlotte, North Carolina (about 100 miles north of my hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina) and the wake-up call that day for me was really, really, REALLY early...2:30am! EEEK! What's really bad is I didn't get to sleep until midnight, so I barely got any rest at all that night. Why was I up so early? Extras were told to report to the check-in between 4-7am. I wouldn't get home that night until nearly 8:00pm!
Yep, it was a long day for us, but we had to cram in a full day of filming which turned out to be the opening scenes of "Leatherheads" where (NBC's The Office star) John Krasinski's character Carter Rutherford is playing college football for Princeton against Penn. We moved around all over the stadium doing the same scene over and over again from different angles and it different positions. I don't think the average Joe and Jane can even begin to realize all that goes on behind-the-scenes to make a two-hour movie look the way it does. It's amazing!
George Clooney gabbing it up with John Krasinski on the set
During Thursday's filming, we got to see George Clooney and John Krasinski a LOT (but regretfully I have yet to see Renee Zellweger in the four total days I worked on the set--darn!). In fact, Clooney was dressed in regular clothes for the scenes we shot in Charlotte since he was not on the field portraying his "Dodge" Connolly character that day. But since he is the director of "Leatherheads," he had to be there to make sure the movie looks exactly like he wants it to.
David Webb consults with George Clooney about the next scene
Of course, Clooney couldn't direct "Leatherheads" all by himself, so he got ample help from his 1st Assistant Director David Webb. Man, what a pro this Webb guy is! From the first time I saw him on the set in Greenville a month ago, I could tell right away he knows exactly what he is doing and would keep the day flowing right along. He's the one who would say "Action" through the bullhorn. Of course, all of us extras were also accustomed to hearing him say "Cut--back to 1" which meant we would be doing the scene over...AGAIN! :) But you knew when he said "That's a wrap" that they got the shot they were looking for.
Producer Grant Heslov chats it up with John Krasinski
Although we never heard from him on the set, you could see "Leatherheads" producer Grant Heslov walking around observing and quietly giving his input during the filming of various scenes. You may recall Heslov as an actor in such hit movies as True Lies, Dante's Peak (one of my favorite films!), Enemy of the State, The Scorpion King and the Academy Award-nominated Good Night, and Good Luck. Now he's been working with Clooney since August 2006 in a movie company called Smoke House.
George Clooney was constantly moving throughout the day
Speaking of the aforementioned Clooney, he was everywhere on the set that day. In fact, at one point he climbed up in the stands smacking his gum (yep, the man didn't stop chewing for even a moment the entire day!) and coming within just a few feet of us extras. We weren't supposed to talk to him, but a few extras got in some comments to him anyway. Constantly keeping us loose by giving acting instructions with a bit of dry humor, you can tell Clooney absolutely loves his roles as director and actor in "Leatherheads." I am confident that he is going to do this movie justice and make it fantastic.
John Krasinski signs an autograph for a fan
To be honest with you, I didn't even know who John Krasinski was before this movie. I'm just not a big fan of the style of comedy on The Office. I just don't get it. Sorry. But this guy is absolutely hilarious! Even still, when the camera was rolling he was all business and did his job extremely well. Like I said in my previous post, he was more than willing to run the length of the field for his scene and then run back to his starting position for another take rather than hitching a ride back. Classy guy! It'll be interesting to see if he keeps that same good head when he becomes a superstar like Clooney one day.
Catching John Krasinski's back side with extras looking on
There was one scene that you'll see at the beginning of the movie where Krasinski's character runs in the end zone for a touchdown and he is swarmed with people running up cheering for him. A group of guys lift him up on their shoulders like a hero and he's pointing to the crowd. Anywho, they had to do that scene over about three or four times because the extras were inadvertently pushing John's head into the camera which doesn't make for good filming. Their new instructions were to "Get excited, but not TOO excited." How's that work? :)
Football players watch Clooney and Krasinski strategize
For all the glamour and glitz that comes with being a Hollywood star like George Clooney, the reality is a movie like this takes a lot of hard work, grit, and endurance to make it happen. Of course, the payoff for the big boys involved will be when this $60 million movie makes $300 million at the box office when it releases in late 2007/early 2008. But being an extra is not a job I would want to try to support a family on. Not by a long shot, no matter how thrilling it is to do it.
With that said, I have now left the "Leatherheads" set for the last time and it has been a fun ride. They'll keep on filming in North Carolina for about another month and then it will go to production where the fate of the scenes that all of us extras are in lies in the hands of the person with the scizzors on the cutting room floor! Cross your fingers that they will keep a few of my scenes intact. :) I'm pretty sure the 20-second doorman scene will remain if nothing else.
We each got a "Leatherheads" keychain as a memento from the film
Would I do something like being an extra in a movie again? Heck yeah, in a heartbeat, baby! But I couldn't do this kinda work every single day of my life for the money they pay. Give me blogging about the low-carb lifestyle and a "normal" life thank you very much! THANKS for the memories, George Clooney, John Krasinski, and the rest! And Renee, too bad we didn't see you in person, but I'll look for you on the silver screen. Good luck to "Leatherheads" at the Oscars!
Read the latest news about the "Leatherheads" movie at Clooney Studio or Clooney Project.